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Options for medical care expand

Mobile clinic brings health care to Dawson

POSTED: May 20, 2009 4:00 a.m.
Photo/Michele Hester/

Second-year nursing student Marla Thompson prepares to prick the finger of a patient May 13 at the Appalachian Nurse Practitioner Mobile Clinic in Dawsonville. The mobile clinic will return to Church of the Apostles from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 27.

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The growing number of residents who lack health insurance and the money to pay for medical care have a new option that’s nearly as good as a house call.

  

A group of nurse practitioner students and instructors at North Georgia College & State University offer mobile health care twice a month in Dawson County.

  

“This is just an awesome learning opportunity. I’ve gained so much patient experience and a better comfort level dealing with patients,” said second-year nursing student Marla Thompson as she prepared to draw blood during a recent checkup in Dawsonville.

  

“I really enjoy this. It’s very rewarding,” she said.

  

Nursing students work alongside faculty members who are certified family nurse practitioners. They offer adult services ranging from care of sore throats and bronchitis to the management of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes.

  

“What separates us is that our overall goal is the patient and the betterment of the patient. We’re not looking to make money. We’re here to do what we can to save the patient money,” Thompson said.

  

The clinic operates on a sliding scale. Patients whose annual income is below 150 percent of the poverty level, or less than about $11,000 a year for a family of four, can receive free treatment.

  

Dawson County Commissioner Gary Pichon said he is glad to see the community step up for the residents in the area who need help.

  

“There are a lot of people hurting in our town. For those in the lower end of poverty, the government steps in. For those working, they usually have health insurance. In between, there is a real need,” he said.

  

Most patients at the clinic pay about $10 per visit and are generally prescribed medications on Wal-Mart’s $4 list, said Thompson, who added the nursing students advocate for reduced prescription prices for their patients.

  

“We spend a lot of time on the phone and on the Internet trying to find them the best prices, and we’ll negotiate for them and fill out all the paperwork for them,” she said.

  

Director Grace Newsome said the intent of the program is twofold: provide an outreach service while expanding the knowledge and experience of nursing students.

  

“Hopefully, after working in a clinic like this, they’ll seek out such a place to work,” she said.

  

The mobile clinic is an outreach of the Appalachian Nurse Practitioner Clinic, which is open Monday through Friday in the Health and Natural Sciences building at the college in Dahlonega.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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